Saturday, September 30, 2017

More Dumas, Please! Traitor's Blade

Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite authors of all time. His three (actually, four) musketeers are a treasure to me, so I was pleased to find a new action-packed series inspired by Dumas' fearless characters, with a bit of fantasy thrown into the mix.

I read Traitor's Blade as quickly as Falcio (the D'Artagnan of the story) runs headlong into trouble, and then away from it again to save the life of a young orphaned girl, fighting to keep the entitlements of her noble birth.

The story of Falcio and his two friends is recounted in a nonlinear way, as current circumstances are paralleled with the recent past. We get just enough of the world's history to understand that the King's Men (the Greatcoats), have been disgraced by the death of their king, and that the world belongs to cruel Dukes who rule like tyrants. I came to understand perfectly the dream of justice and valor at the birth of the Greatcoats, and how that dream lives on in Falcio's heart despite the fallen state of his office and that of his fellow Greatcoats. The coats, by the way, the actual coats? What a nice touch, imbuing them with intelligent design and suggestively magical properties.

The introduction of magic into this kind of swashbuckling felt really fresh and I thoroughly enjoyed it; my only complaint is that I could have used more of it. In some places, the use and purpose of such magics was kept secret from the characters, and thus the readers, and I think maybe that was too much. I would have liked more insight into this side of the world. And the religion, too. We get lots of saints' names, which I found a very interesting use of the French Christian history, but grounding that kind of a system would have made it feel more complex and compelling, rather than just a unique way of swearing.

This was a terrifically fun read, but I did notice that it was unbalanced. It was clear without being stated in the bio that the author is a fight choreographer (among other things), because each encounter is marked out with precision. I appreciated that, but it took up so much space in the book, that in many ways the plot could be boiled down to running from one fight to the next. The best parts of the book where the instances of insight into the political machinations of the world, but, remember, I am an avid Dumas fan, and nobody outdoes the master in political intrigue. Nobody. The villains in Traitor's Blade were vile, to be sure, but almost stereotypically so. I craved for more depth on this front, more conniving, more deceptions, alliances, twists and turns. I felt a little bit of Lady de Winter, but not quite enough of her here. And no Richelieu-that is to say, no serious mastermind. Just transparently cruel Dukes doing transparently cruel things. That transparency, bred out of their entitlement and their laziness, robbed the story of an intriguing impulse, and sense of suspense.

I will definitely seek out the next book in the series, but with the sincere hope that de Castell will take away more than just the violence and fun from Dumas; that he will aspire to reach an almost unattainable layer of depth.

K Rating: 4/5
**New Author Goal: 18**

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Some of the funniest frickin' cinema I've ever seen- if you haven't seen this 1973 version, you must.

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